Vale, David Yencken - Speech, House of Representatives


I want to pay tribute to a great Australian.

David Yencken passed away on 21 September at home in Albert Park, Victoria after a 66-year career in the public service which earnt him praise and multiple awards. Before he went into the public service, David ran one of the earliest art galleries devoted to Australian painting. He opened Brummels Gallery in South Yarra in 1956. The following year he broke new ground again. He opened one of the first motels in Australia. In 1965, David co-founded Merchant Builders Pty Ltd, which went on to win three Victorian Architectural Medals and several other architectural awards, including the inaugural Robin Boyd Environmental Award for changing the face of residential Melbourne in 1972.

David went on to serve as the inaugural chair of the Australian Heritage Commission from 1975 to 1981. It was established after the Whitlam government's Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate, of which David Yencken was a member. In the eyes of many, David Yencken's work secured the commission's future. Historian Graeme Davison wrote: 'It might easily have suffered the fate of other reforms of the Whitlam government. In Yencken, however, the commission found a director with the required combination of diplomatic finesse and political tenacity'—qualities not always found in the city.

David went on to work as the Secretary of the Ministry for Planning and Environment in Victoria, where he oversaw a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of Melbourne's central business district. His work was recognised with several Royal Australian Institute of Architecture awards, among the many honours that he received during his career.

David Yencken was the joint leader of the Australian delegation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 1981 and 1988. Other public roles included the Prime Minister's Urban Design Task Force in 1994 and 1995; chair of the design committee of the Australia Council for the Arts; and president and later patron of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He was an honorary fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia, an honorary fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, and an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to conservation and history, awarded in 1982.

Outside his impressive career, David also demonstrated true altruism in gifting his South Coast property, including a house now included on the New South Wales historic houses list, to the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service. He is survived by his wife, Helen, and his children, Andrew, Daniel, Anja, Lars, Jessica and Luke.

I want to finish by again quoting Graeme Davison, who along with academic Alan Pert, said of David Yencken:

He has integrity, sincerity and a capacity to inspire and lead his colleagues to achieve goals beyond their expectations.

May he rest in peace.


Authorised by  Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.